There are 600 or so local community councils in Scotland, consisting of Scottish citizens who have a passionate interest in their community.
Most of the people who serve on these councils have a great deal to contribute. They tend to work with a budget that often does not exceed £1000.
This is very wrong – the Scottish Government should make £10,000 per annum available to each community council. These funds would make them far more effective, attract more people to join and give them a new lease of life.
The total cost of this exercise would be a mere £12,000,000 and it would be one of the better investments the Scottish Government could make. The administration of these monies could be undertaken by the local authority who have an infrastructure that allows it to do that without incurring significant internal costs.
Furthermore, the Scottish Government should give every community council which wants one, a properly developed website so that they can reach out more to their patrons.
This would be hugely beneficial and roll out their local reach by a significant factor at hardly any cost.
Local authorities should be forced to take the views of community councils far more into account when making important decisions – particularly where it involves planning and services that the local authority is required to fulfil. They should utilise the significant local knowledge that these community councils have where it comes to policing, unsociable individuals, schooling issues and all the other important issues that local customers are confronted with on a daily basis.
The Scottish Government has made the fundamental mistake of trying to centralise all decision making towards Holyrood, having been so critical of Westminster doing that in the past.
The First Minister should start with pushing decision-making down to the people who would undoubtedly rise to that occasion. As an elected representative, I have witnessed this first hand in the three local community councils in my Ward 5 in Midlothian.
Just like the Scottish Government should instruct their local authorities, they should also encourage Police Scotland to work closely with the community councils – something that the new Chief Constable, Phil Gormley, has already started to do since he took over from his predecessor.
We should all trust the local population to a much greater extent, give them the support they require and make the community councils a constructive source of support in their own patch – only then will we make Scotland succeed.
We need no further centralisation but significant further delegation today.
Peter HJ de Vink has worked as an investment manager and is an independent councillor in Midlothian.